by Kennedy Applebaum
June 22, 2015
Vladimir Horbulin, the head of Ukraine’s Strategic Studies Institute, former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, and advisor to Kiev regime leader Petro Poroshenko, has offered five scenarios for possible outcomes for the Ukraine-Novorossiya war. I present Horbulin’s scenarios first, then the comments of Fort Russ translator J. Hawk, and lastly my own optimistic predictions.
Donbass Conflict May Be Frozen
Translated from Polish by J. Hawk
June 22, 2015
Poroshenko’s Senior Advisor: “The Donbass conflict may be frozen”
Vladimir Horbulin, an advisor to Poroshenko, believes that although freezing the Donbass conflict is undesirable and without future prospects, it may be that Ukraine will have to agree to such an outcome, as in the case of Transnistria. The head of the presidential Strategic Studies Institute and the former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council laid out five possible eastern Ukraine conflict resolution scenarios.
The first is that in the event of a large scale Russian invasion, Ukraine might prevail using guerrilla warfare. Horbulin believes that in this case Russia would be struck by very drastic Western sanctions, and moreover it is has limited financial and technological capabilities, plus its political system lacks resilience. Horbulin also notes that it would be the most heroic and casualty-demanding scenario for Ukraine, but also the least likely one.
The second scenario presupposes Ukraine gives up the Donbass and breaks off all relations with that occupied territory.
The third scenario calls for finding a separatist peace with Russia on terms favorable to it, in other words, recognizing Donbass autonomy, giving up Crimea, and ignoring the interests of Kiev’s western partners. In Horbulin’s view, this scenario would partially deprive the Ukrainian state of its independent foreign policy and tie Ukraine’s future to that of Russia. “This scenario is historically suicidal and politically senseless”, believes Poroshenko’s advisor.
The fourth scenario entails freezing the conflict along the lines of Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, which favors Russia. Although this variant makes it possible to immediately end the fighting on the Donbass, it is unfavorable to Ukraine because in the long term it will be an unattractive state in a state of permanent crisis, suffering from illegal humanitarian aid trade, arms and drug trafficking on a massive scale, and the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers on the line of demarcation. Although that scenario is undesirable and does not offer a path to the final resolution, Ukraine might be forced to accept it under the pressure of internal and external circumstances. What’s more, nobody knows how long that state might last and what it would ultimately lead to.
The fifth variant presupposes a state of limited war and continuous negotiations in order to achieve the best results with lowest losses, although that path, in Horbulin’s view, demands a great deal of time, skill, and patience.
J. Hawk of Fort Russ comments:
I think it’s relatively obvious the first scenario is not going to happen, no matter how much the Strelkovs and Colonel_Cassads (or, for that matter, Horbulins) of this world want to see it. Simply because the end objective, Horbulin’s scenario number 3, will drop into Russia’s lap due to the “pressure of internal and external circumstances.” Without excessive bloodshed and plunging Russia into another Cold War, not to mention causing major changes to Russia’s political system (which is Strelkov’s ultimate objective).
Horbulin is clearly a die-hard, given his view on the “historically suicidal” third scenario. However, given that he’s already giving up on scenario 5 in favor of scenario 4 (however reluctantly), means that the distance to scenario 3 has grown that much shorter.
Kennedy Applebaum of Quemado Institute comments:
Scenario I: In the event of a large scale Russian invasion, Ukraine might prevail using guerrilla warfare. Horbulin disingenuously touts this variant as an obligatory tribute to Western disinformation policy. Russia will not invade Ukraine. And even it did, it would likely not fight on the side of Novorossiya. Indeed, I can’t imagine Putin’s army joining the campaign of the Novorossiya Armed Forces (NAF) in their quest for independence for the Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts. Based on Putin’s traitorous neglect of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in the past, I fear Russian forces would speedily neutralize the NAF, quashing their advance under the guise of peace while forcing reunion with Ukraine. I stress this to caution Donbass supporters who pine for Russian intervention, an eventuality likely to backfire. The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics must expect to fend for themselves. About Ukraine’s “guerrilla warfare” capabilities, having failed utterly against two tiny nations, there is little chance they would beat the world’s most efficacious military.
Scenario II: (To be dealt with last)
Scenario III: Recognizing Donbass autonomy, giving up Crimea, and ignoring the interests of Kiev’s western partners. This is the Minsk 2.0 option, which both warring parties have called “suicidal.” Unlike other options, it is equally bad for both sides, thus providing a balance of sorts, a kind of esthetic symmetry. So why does Minsk exist? To serve foreign interests. (See our commentaries Minsk 2.0: Time Is on the Side of Novorossiya and Minsk 2.0 Chess Match: Has Zakharchenko Outplayed Kiev?.)
Scenario IV: Freezing the conflict … which favors Russia. And it does favor Russia, but not for the reasons Horbulin thinks. It favors Putin’s anti-Donbass agenda, which is to quell outrage over the adoption of Crimea, to cool EU hostility, to dump the fiasco into the mine tailings of history so Putin can resume his appeasement of the West, while allowing him to wash his hands of responsibility. But it does not favor the cultural and ancestral Russians of Donbass. It doesn’t even favor the oligarchs!
Scenario V: Limited war and continued negotiations. This is Minsk n++ ad infinitum. The Minsk 2.0 Agreements will expire, however, if the Package of Measures is not fulfilled within a year. Meanwhile, DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko and Contact Group envoy Denis Pushilin have both declared there will be no Minsk 3.0. This variant is therefore doomed.
Scenario II: Give up Donbass and break off relations. I have left this option until last, precisely because it’s the best. And being an optimist, I believe it’s also the most likely. I’m encouraged Horbulin has suggested it. If Ukraine gave up Donbass now, the world would forget in a week or two. Ukraine’s oligarchs would quickly adjust. They’re good at adjusting; that’s why they’re rich. The US would hardly notice, as electoral euphoria trumps European affairs. Corporations would welcome a settlement so they could write up new contracts. And poor beleaguered Putin would be off the hook. Clearly this is the simplest, the most humane, and the happiest outcome for everyone …
Everyone perhaps except Angela Merkel, whose “Order of Europe” would be shattered. 😀
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